Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You Can Do It!

So, I had this guy come into our law library the other day claiming he knew nothing about legal research.  Nothing, nada, zip-o.  15 minutes later, we discovered that he did know quite a bit about legal research and he was off and running.  See, the thing is, everyone knows to do legal research.  That's right, everyone reading this post (and I do mean everyone) has the power to do their own legal research.  Let me elucidate.

First, some questions.

  • Question 1:  By raise of hands, how many of you went to high school?  How about any college (2-year or a 4-year brick and mortar or online school)?  Anyone do any graduate work (master's program, Ph.D., J.D.)?
  • Question 2:  Did any of you who raised your hand do any book reports in high school?  How about any 5-page research papers?
  • Question 3: Where is the Table of Contents in a book?  Where is the Index?
If you answered "at the front" to the Table of Contents and "at the back" to the Index, you now know darn near most everything you need to know about how to do legal research.  OK, there are a few other details to it but that's basically all you need for most legal research projects.  Why then do people freak out when you put the word "legal" in front of the word "research" and you/they suddenly forget how to do research?

OK, so I say you know how to do legal research - but maybe you need some proof?  A little coaching, perhaps?  Not a problem:  Say you're in dire need of information about the Madrid Protocol because you're looking to register a trademark in a foreign country.  What are you going to do?  Well, if I may make a suggestion - what you might start with an easy resource such as Patent, Copyright & Trademark: an intellectual property desk reference (Nolo Press). Starting in the Index, look under "M" for "Madrid Protocol" and you're on your way!  See?  Easy peasy!

Let's try another one.  Say you're a music teacher and you're looking to add to your students repertoire.  You found a piece of music you like and you want to make copies for your class(es) but are not sure if making that many copies is legal, what are you going to do?  Well, if I may make a suggestion - what you might start with is to take a look at Kohn on Music Licensing (Aspen), look in the Index under "F" for "Fair Use" and you're on your way!  This couldn't be more easy if I was doing it for you.

So see how easy this legal research stuff is?  You may never be a lawyer but that doesn't mean you can't do legal research in your sleep!  If you ever run into any trouble at your local law library, just spend a few minutes at the Reference Desk and the law librarian can help set you on your way to legal research bliss.